By U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
In my final hearing chairing the Senate Finance Committee, President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as the 78th U.S Treasury secretary told lawmakers we must “act big” to restore the economy capsized by COVID-19.
At her confirmation hearing held the day before the presidential inauguration, Janet Yellen sought to justify the incoming administration’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan. Championing the so-called rescue proposal, she revealed what the Biden administration has in mind for the next four years: a big government take-over of the U.S. economy, from dismantling the Trump tax cuts to imposing mandates on small businesses and restructuring the nation’s health care and energy infrastructure.
Although Democrats will control the leadership reins of the first and second branches of the federal government for at least the next two years, they’d do well to lean in on a bit of Midwestern common sense that’s served me well on my family farm and in Congress: Don’t put the cart before the horse.
Using COVID-19 to masquerade a liberal policy agenda won’t get far in a narrowly divided House and Senate. It’s reckless to borrow another $2 trillion on top of $4 trillion already in the pipeline. While more pandemic relief is needed, some of the line items are a political pipe dream for progressives.
For example, mandating a $15 federal minimum wage would wipe out small businesses hanging by a thread. It would cut into already contracted business income, forcing local retailers and restaurants to stop hiring and forget about reopening or expanding a small business. At worst, many may close their doors for good. A shuttered Main Street business diminishes economic vitality and means no jobs, no paychecks and no tax revenue.
When COVID-19 slammed the brakes on the U.S. economy last year, Congress took historic action to send out stimulus checks, boost federal unemployment insurance payments, replenish the financial lifeline to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), bolster nutrition programs and lost revenue for family farmers, assist student borrowers, enact a temporary eviction moratorium, and help health care providers on the front lines of the pandemic.
With 400,000 Americans lives lost and counting, there’s clear and present urgency to effectively deploy swift vaccine distribution. However, it’s also clear the Biden administration is taking a cue from the Obama administration’s modis operandi to never “let a serious crisis go to waste.”
At her confirmation hearing, I told the expected Treasury secretary she would have an instrumental opportunity to create an environment for bipartisanship and reasoned debate. Raising taxes on individuals and U.S. businesses won’t grease the wheels of an economy starting to gain traction. To the contrary, they’d slam the brakes on the rebound and unbridled spending would throw taxpayers under the bus.
For his First 100 Days, President Biden also has signaled a radical immigration agenda that would seem to cast the door wide open to amnesty and open borders. As the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I look forward to scrutinizing the legislative details and working to ensure we have an immigration system that serves the interests of the American people. Again, let’s not put the cart before the horse. An open-borders policy would add significant risks to public health in the middle of a pandemic, exacerbate the costs and logistics of vaccine distribution, and send an alarming message to American workers who have lost their jobs or seen their paychecks and hours reduced during the pandemic.
Candidate Biden campaigned on a platform to heal America and bridge the partisan divisions tearing our country apart. I look forward to working with the Biden administration to get the pandemic behind us and grow the economy back bigger and better than ever.
One last bit of advice as our 46th president takes office. “Go big or go home” could turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. Ramming through a liberal laundry list without building consensus and winning bipartisanship is more than likely a one-way ticket for a one-term presidency.
Republican Chuck Grassley represents Iowa in the United States Senate. He is co-author of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.